Some nights, I am pottering around my room, doing nothing much at all, when I look out the window and have to catch my breath. Because there it is: the Eiffel tower. And it reminds me that I am in Paris. Paris, people.
MyParis life does not yet feel “normal”. Not when I arrive back from a weekend in Amsterdam with a backpack full of things that still needed moving. When I am inordinately proud of not getting off my bike to use the pedestrian crossing on my way to work. When I apologize in Dutch to the people whose toes I accidentally crush in rush hour traffic. But it is becoming a little more like normal, now that I know where to locate the canned tomatoes in the supermarket, and that the third flight of stairs will kick my ass every time.
It is a good feeling, this starting to be at home in a new city. I like knowing that if I find a really good croissant on “croissant Thursday”, I can come back a week later and have one again. In fact, I like that I have croissant Thursday. Buying a croissant for breakfast on Thursday morning (every Thursday, and only on Thursday) is a ritual that grounds me in this place I am in. Since I spend quite a bit of time feeling like an outsider (in the best, enthusiastic, Discovery Channel way possible, but an outsider nonetheless), that matters.
As do people to share the discoveries with. A Dutch friend was here to explore the Salon d’Agriculture with and to share my first taste of oysters ever. It would have been a discovery in any case, because oysters turn out to be delicious slivers of ocean freshness (please don’t tell me about sea water pollution). But having her there to share the giggles (“did she really just say that oysters release all their sperm in July and become shrivelled little creatures as a result?”) made it into an adventure.
And then one of the brothers-in-law came to town and took me for dinner. Even though his hotel was so deep into the 15th my tourist map didn’t have its street, I found it. Step one in feeling quite Parisian. Then I ordered a pitcher of tap water when the waiter sneakily tried to sell us overpriced bottled water. Step two in feeling local. We ordered food off the chalkboard menu and I recognized nearly all ingredients. Step three, and almost feeling smug. Then we got up to leave and I well-nigh upended the table. It had clearly been constructed for a more Parisian sized woman, and I ran out of room between it and the wall when getting up. Right. Not quite “normal”. But Paris? Bring it on. I am ready for so much more.